Liberia: No More Constitutional Violation Should Be Condoned When It Comes To Holding National Elections

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SOMETIME THIS YEAR, the National Elections Commission (NEC) is supposed to conduct the midterm election for at most half of the Senate, i.e. 15 senators, whose seats are going to be up for grasp from a number of challengers. It is totally possible some seats would be lost while others would be retained. 

THESE PRESENT SENATORS, including Henry Yallah (Bong), Sando Johnson (Bomi), Abraham Darius Dillon (Montserrado), Oscar Cooper (Margibi), George Tengbeh (Lofa), Alphonso Gaye (Grand Gedeh), Thomas Grupee (Nimba), Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence (Bassa), Dallas Gueh (Rivercess), J. Milton Teahjay (Sinoe), Victor Varney Watson (Grand Cape Mount), Matthew Jay (River Gee), Peter Coleman (Grand Kru), Dan Morias (Maryland) and Armah Zulu Jallah (Gbarpolu) as it stands are going to be fighting to retain their seats. These lady and gentlemen, by the time of the conduct of the election, would have spent their full nine years entitled to a senator. Unlike the other 13, Senators Dillon and Watson are completing the terms of two deceased senators — Geraldine Doe Sheriff of Montserrado County and Edward Dagoseh, Grand Cape Mount County. 

THE CONDUCT of this election and other national elections are constitutional mandate that should not be tempered with, including being delayed, by the regime of the day in the name of ‘no money.’ 

SO, THE STATE is under obligation to hold these elections in the timely manner as required by law. Excuses of ‘no money’ can’t be granted as these elections’ dates are set by the constitutional provision.

IN SPITE OF THIS, the National Elections Commission has begun an early warning so they will be ready to conduct this midterm election in time this October. 

CLLR. JEROME George Korkoya-led NEC is sounding the alarm because the past history of recent by-elections has not been good. There were constitutional violations as it relates to the holding of those by-elections. 

CLLR. KORKOYA, a lawyer, doesn’t want to be seen as someone who is constantly violating the law even though the issues that lead to such willful violation are not his or the Commission’s faults. They are solely as a result of negligence from another agency of government.

ON WEDNESDAY, January 8, Cllr. Korkoya was heard sounding another early alarm bell that the midterm election is few months away but all or some of the funds required for preparations have not yet made available to the Commission. 

“I think it is good to start early to meet up with our timeline, I am worried that if we don’t have money now to start the education of our people for the election process it might be a problem,” Cllr. Korkoya.

HE DISCLOSED that the timelines and regulations for the election have been developed and approved including all of the technical works leading to the election are set but there is no money to start the process.

THE NEC CHAIRMAN said Liberia’s Finance and Development Planning Minister, Mr. Samuel Tweah, proposed that the process be funded in phases, something he said was accepted but the Commission is yet to receive the first US$7 million to fund pre-electoral activities which include voters roll update, retrieving of lost cards, voters registration, among others.

“TO BE FRANK with you, election is expensive and we don’t have money yet, this may hamper the process if there is no money to meet the timeline. I don’t want us to ignore that, we have been working with the Minister Tweah and his team at the Ministry of Finance and the Minister has proposed that we cut down the budget from US$27 million to US$15 million but we have not gotten any amount yet to start the process. I am confident that the government will do something because this is the first major election under this administration and I think they will want to work harder that the funding is available,” Cllr. Korkoya said.

CLLR. KORKOYA clarified that the cutting down of the activities by the NEC will in no way affect the process.

“WE’VE CUT down a number of activities but not at the detriment of the process to meet up with our new budget which is between US$14 or US$15 million,” he said.

HE SAID WORKS that are supposed to be done by two persons have been cut down to one person. “For example, if a poll worker was making US$300, it will be cut down to US$150 to meet up with the current budget.”

HE FURTHER NOTED that, “The government wrote a commitment for US$7 million for the first phase to start the pre-election process but the latest information I have is that the Ministry of Finance is willing to process the first US$2 million out of the US$7 million and they are currently making efforts by being in talks with other stakeholders like the legislature to see how the rest of the US$5 million can be raised to complete the first phase,” he disclosed.

HE SAID, “It is important that we get money now to start the process of educating the people on how the process will be since we will be dealing with symbols. For example, the tenure of the reduction of the presidency will be represented by symbols and these symbols need to be explained properly to our people who do not read or write and even the entire public needs to know those symbols and they need to be educated how to vote even before the process starts,” he said.

THE NEC BOSS’ early warning is timely as the past few by-elections were delayed primarily due to lack of funds. Many have seen this midterm election in October as a challenge for the Weah’s administration with the election being the first major under his administration.

MONTSERRADO County Senator Abraham Darius Dillon recently said he would not contest the election if the NEC fails to conduct the election on the constitutional date. Sen. Dillon said he would not support the violation of the Constitution and noted that any election outside the constitutional date would be illegitimate which he would not be a part of. We think other senators should now begin to echo the call of their colleague, Dillon.

IT CAN BE recalled that the Montserrado and Bong Counties by-elections that brought Senators Dillon and Henrique Tokpah to the Senate were delayed on several occasions by the NEC due to the government’s failure to make available adequate funding for the election.

MR. FINANCE and Development Planning Minister, you can’t be seen as the one always creating the flagrant violation of the organic law of the land. You need to put your acts together so that there can be no more violation of the Constitution when it comes to holding of these national elections.

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